The passage of time is no guarantee of anything. Socrates (470 BC399 BC) was the one who first sang the ball about the futility of old age, elaborating on the idea that the more the years pass, the more man realizes his abysmal ignorance overlap the reasonable man, if less without burning all the fat, without being able to rekindle the cold flame of curiosity in the face of the unknown, the new, life itself, and improving the mind. Death hovers over mankind like flies around a creamy appetizer (but with decidedly bitter notes), and even before death, it is chance that unashamedly creeps into people of all bloodlines and cultures. It is the coincidence we must contend with every single day, longing to escape its traps but also at the mercy of enjoying its sudden indulgences and vivid moments which, fleeting as they may be, one legitimize whole trip. Perhaps the greatest danger of being young lies precisely in recognizing, often in a matter of seconds, under what circumstances the unexpected in life is in our favor or just masked with the colored shawls of illusion to see us get to the bottom.
Kenyan Wanuri Kahiu has risen into the global film industry thanks to From a Whisper (2009), which won her the African Movie Academy Awards in five categories, including Best Picture and Best Director. In “What if…?” (2022), the director crystallizes the strength of her talent with a plot about the misadventures of a woman in search of selfknowledge and, precisely for this reason, makes decisions that are understandable, but after a short time cause invincible torment be able. Combining the arguments of ‘A Case with Chance’ (1998), directed by Peter Howitt, and ‘More or Less Pregnant’ (1988) by John G. Avildsen (19352017), Kahiu’s work is much more objective, with a clear predominance of Conflicts that are also resolved with a certain coolness. The feeling of déjà vu is fully exploited, as if the audience were on a merrygoround, caught up in situations that could repeat themselves endlessly, although April Prosser’s very well crafted screenplay has the power to lead one to believe that a truly unusual one event is imminent.
“What if …?” is a test balloon about the life of Natalie, the aspiring animator and director, played with a mixture of tenderness and power by Lili Reinhart. In the opening, Natalie appears as a recent college grad making plans for five years; At the same time, he’d bedded his best friend Gabe quite flippantly and begged Danny Ramirez’s character to never go beyond a spree and continue with what they’d always been, just good friends. This is the hook for Kahiu to move the narrative with the parallel reality concept: At the party offered to the trainees, the girl and Cara, the faithful squire, played by Aisha Dee, appear locked in the bathroom waiting the result of a test of pregnancy. Immediately the screen splits in two and behind each of them the audience sees the fate of the main character as she decides to live her life one way or another, raising her baby on her own once she rejects Gabe’s marriage proposal and From there, Gunst lives in a makeshift room at his parents’ house or off to Los Angeles on an adventure that may lead nowhere but is necessary to establish himself as the owner of his own nose.
In both places, Natalie faces her misadventures with dignity and occasionally submits to the odd humiliation. If, on the one hand, life as an aggregate in her childhood home, good performances by Luke Wilson and Andrea Savage, is an ordeal, on the other hand, it doesn’t take long for the journey to the City of Angels to turn out to be hell. In the first sequence, as she tries to adjust to the stuffy world of Hollywood with its thousands of parties where no one knows each other (and she doesn’t even care), the antiheroine seems to risk being left out the ball. She intrudes, encouraged by Jake, David Corenswet’s semisoapy guy, who stays with the girl until the two become friends and pals not long after. The dramatic arc of Corenswet’s character, as well as Cara’s at times and even Gabe’s, remains a bit lame. Going all out for his protagonist, Prosser even pushes the envelope as he amplifies Natalie’s headbutts in the business world, victim of Lucy, Nia Long’s animation and liveaction feature filmmaker, once an idol, now a boss
Obviously the ending is happy. “What if …?” seems to merge the two possibilities in Natalie’s career, she becomes a successful professional, stays with her love of one life and the other characters just disappear, a major gaffe in a story that seemed so complex. The film has glowing passages that mention iconic drawings like Japanese artist Hayao Miyazaki’s A Voyage of Spirit (2001), which bring soul to a highly commercial product. A very adult thing, as another character from another cartoon would say.
Movie: What happened if …?
Direction: Wanuri Kahiu